What’s in a Name? (Hint: Everything)

Your derby league’s look and feel affects the success of your marketing and your community relationship. A smart, calculated and yes, creative selection of your logo, league name, team name(s) and tagline is vital.

Derby Branding 101 

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If you are not familiar with branding, think of it as a consistent look and voice that represents your league. When it comes to derby, branding gives merchandise, boutfits and marketing a unified style.

I’m a flat-out sports fan. I can identify professional teams at a glance. And it’s no accident–a group of experts choose logos, colors, team font (yes, even the typeface stands out) and taglines that fans can spot in an instant. Good branding is a must for any business and sports teams are businesses.

Lovin’ it or hatin’ it, McDonald’s is a branding machine. The signature red and yellow, arches, jingle and tagline make their ads and restaurants recognizable in a few seconds. You want to capture a consistent visual and written style that strives for a McDonald’s-level of familiarity to your community.

Let’s start with the first steps—a logo and a name. I’ll touch on all elements of branding in future posts.

Choose Logo Colors Carefully

Roller Derby Apparel Your logo is a major part of your branding effort. It is the fastest way people will identify your league and an image that’s unmistakably you. It also should make the connection with roller derby very easy.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I owned Flyin’ Squirrel, a derby novelty t-shirt company. I approached a Mad Rollin’ Doll’s fan to create the logo for the company. He was known nationwide for his style. He delivered my vision and my logo kicked butt. This was my calling card, my stamp. It affected how we designed the website and every piece of marketing collateral.

My logo was a tremendous success visually, but it created a few problems price wise.

The success: I was able to sell merchandise that simply had the logo on it, a goal of mine when searching for a logo design.

The problems: the logo was a bit complex, which created some small hurdles. But the biggest issue was that it comprised six colors.

If it looks cool, who cares?

Your bank account cares. Every color in your t-shirt, banners and program printing can cost additional money, depending on technology used. This is a definite when you print clothing. League merchandise, clothing in particular can be a major profit center for your league. Printing costs account for the majority of money invested in merchandise.

My merchandise company’s brand centered around one image (as it should), but my brand identifier was a profit assassin. I sponsored leagues, an actual b-team, and was printing t-shirts with my squirrel. The b-team sponsorship included both home and away boutfits. Making the team’s uniforms was expensive enough without the logo and really expensive with it. The team’s logo was so cool that fans bought loads of the shirts. But my profit was a fraction what I made on other shirts.

So what, you were still making money.

Wrong attitude. You’re a business. Weather, unexpected costs/economic downturns, time and pocket money needed from league members affect the league’s ability to survive. Spend wisely, as if it was your own cash. And remember, the non-profit model does not mean you shouldn’t make a profit.

My branding developed from that logo. The expense of traditional printing of images on clothing grows with every color. Six colors meant I could only print logo clothing occasionally. Even when I received price breaks for ordering a higher quantity, the profit was half or less than other shirts I made.

It may not just be clothing that’s affected by your colorful logo. Color copies, stickers, posters (if screen-printed) will potentially be more expensive.

The Deal with Die Cutting

Though certainly the lesser evil than the color, the logo’s shape also came with a price. If your logo has sharp features, it may not look right inside a circle or rectangle. Die cutting is a process where the vendor cuts the sticker or patch to the outline of the image.

Though I compromised to use a less expensive tagline, I chose to die cut the patches. They were great to sell and I had them pressed onto winter hats and shirts, but I had to order 500 to 1,000 of them to keep the cost down to a reasonable per-piece price. The cost was high, an amount most leagues couldn’t afford to spend, especially ones just starting out.

What’s in a Name?

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What’s not in a name? The logo may be the visual trigger, but early on, the name means more.

I’ll admit it. Coming from a business background, I don’t understand creating a league or team name that has a double meaning, is inappropriate, or represents something negative in the community’s history. There are plenty of these out there. Taglines can be as helpful or damaging as the name itself. Madison’s “Hurt in a skirt” is an example of a fun, appropriate use of words.

New derby used to be more edgy, racy and rebellious, but those comedic names created marketing barriers. Most leagues today describe themselves as family friendly. It’s increasingly important that names avoid innuendos and aren’t disrespectful. I love that roller derby welcomes open-minded, free thinkers. However, our sense of humor and irony get the best of us on occasion.

If your community finds your brand offensive or off-putting, your marketing and publicity opportunities will be limited. I won’t name names (see what I did there), but there are some teams that will never appear in local publications and newspapers. Their brand is too controversial or vile to publish. Think about it: how does the local newspaper report on the league if the league’s name cannot be used? They’ll likely skip the story.

Pick-up teams, regional teams that come together to play exhibition games or closed-door leagues can go outside the bounds with their branding. But if you’re playing in front of a crowd, being covered by media or receiving acknowledgement for charity or community work, craft your brand for the mainstream.

Prepare Your League for the Long Haul

If there is one piece of advice to take away from this entire blog series, it’s that you should take the time you need to prepare your image and build a foundation that will support your league for generations to come. The sacrifice? Playing the game publicly may happen later than members would prefer.

Remember, you can play whenever you are ready; just don’t open the doors publicly until your business is prepared. Marketing and public relations will hit the ground running the moment the league is announced.

If playing to the mainstream is what you desire, make sure your brand won’t hurt profitability in pure cost or the cost of negative public opinion. Back tracking to fix your brand image is a long process. It can take years to win back community love after a branding snafu, so craft your image carefully from the beginning.

What are your biggest derby branding challenges? Don’t be shy–comment below.

Roller Derby >

Burlesque Ticketing 101

BPT_Burly_Ticketing_Front-01Brown Paper Tickets supports event organizers, producers and performers with free advice, services and ticketing tools. We ticket thousands of burlesque events every year. In fact, more burlesque events than any other ticketing platform. We’re crazy about burlesque.

As Burlesque Representative, I assist performers and producers in setting up and promoting their shows. Here are seven pieces of advice I commonly give when I talk about burlesque ticketing:

1. Use Your Own Credit Card Processor

Budgeting for your show can be a challenge. Often, burlesque producers operate on a shoestring budget and desperately need the money from ticket sales to pay out-of-town performers, venue fees, promotional costs, etc. If having cash in hand the night of your show is an issue, I stress that with Brown Paper Tickets, you can use a third-party processor, like PayPal (probably the most popular) and we’ll give you 2.5% of our 3.5% processing fee paid by the ticket buyer back to you, the producer. This means you get the full face value of your tickets as they’re sold. Plus, you get a little bit extra to help offset the fees your third-party processor charges.

2. Use Brown Paper Tickets’ Promotion Help

With all you’ve got going on around show time, promotions is one of those things that might slip. Don’t let it. We take a close look at your promotional plan and suggest ways you can improve it. We’ll help you build curated media lists for your area. We’ll send out tweets for you. We’ll edit and refine your press releases so that they are more effective in getting media placements, even coach you on TV or radio appearances. It all depends on your needs. And we won’t insult you by offering placement in mass e-mails, which most people delete immediately. With us, you’ll have a dedicated team of event specialists to get the most out of your promotional campaign. I suggest that you contact us at least six to eight weeks prior to your event to get the best results from your campaign.

3.  Offer Limited-Time Price Reductions

Many producers don’t like offering discounted tickets as they feel it will cut into their total take. But I’ve found that limited-time price reductions create a sense of urgency and you’ll pull in folks who may not have considered attending otherwise. It’s the whole “It’s on sale! I HAVE to buy it.” philosophy. The best times to offer discounts are either right when you announce ticket sales (early bird discounts) or on a significant day. For example: “It’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s birthday and we’re offering a special discount to all burlesque fans in honor of her memory.” Something along those lines. Trust me, you’ll see a spike in sales.

4. Offer Special Discounts to Your Mailing List

Show your devotees a little extra love by offering the first opportunity to purchase tickets to your shows. While you’re at it, give them a special perk like a glass of champagne, discounted VIP seating, maybe some merch. Whatever you can do to show your fans how much you appreciate their support will only endear you to them more and ensure their loyalty over time. Loyal fans are the best advertisement a burlesque performer could have, so throw a little money their way. Trust me, next time they’ll bring their friends.

5. Bundle Tickets with Merchandise

Speaking of bundling merchandise, it’s easy to offer a special price that includes some form of merchandise with their tickets. This will help you move merch and expand exposure to your brand while also saving you from having to sling merch after the show. Some merch ideas: branded drink tokens, signed posters, branded panties, t-shirts or even flasks. Merch is a great way to get your brand out in the world and if done well, can become an extra revenue stream. Just inform your door person that ticket buyers will receive something extra at the door, based on price points.

6. Offer Group Packages

Over the years, burlesque events have become increasingly popular with bachelorette parties. Consider the bachelorette angle when marketing your event. One way to encourage bachelorettes or other groups to come to your shows is to offer a group package. Think birthdays, tourist groups or bachelorette parties. Even better, develop a relationship with local wedding planners or concierges. Consider offering a percentage of the packages they sell so that they have incentive to encourage their clients to attend your events. These relationships can become super valuable and get you high-paying gigs outside the burlesque circuit, like corporate events or private parties.

7. Customize Your Producer Profiles

If you organize multiple events, let your fans see all your shows on your producer profile. Customize the page to match your branding or even better, have our tech team create a skin for your profile page that matches the look and feel of your website. Then your producer page can basically replace the calendar on your website and folks never have to leave your site to see all your shows and get tickets. If you want more information on how to create a customized producer profile, contact our Client Services department and they can get that started for you.

Any burlesque questions or need help? Please contact me directly at jimmy[at]brownpapertickets.com.

Arts >

Comedy Outliers: Nobody Puts “Comedy Outliers” In A Corner

co18Today we feature another guest post from Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. Brandon and Mike offer great advice to comedians, or performers in general, on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

The Comedy Outliers have a show coming up this Saturday, July 20 at Lily O’Brien‘s in New York City. Their shows are free but we highly recommend you pick up tickets so you don’t show up to a full house.

If you’re in New York or headed that way, be sure to check out their show. It’s rare to see comedy of this calibre without a cover charge or drink minimum. That said, if you want them to continue bringing these great shows to the Big Apple, we highly encourage you to support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

So, without further ado, I give you Brandon and Mike of The Comedy Outliers:

“Oh yeah, ‘Comedy Outliers’! I heard that’s a great urban show!” This is occasionally something we will hear from comedians who we mention our successful free monthly show to. These are comics who have not been to our show before but only know of it through positive word of mouth or the promotional pictures we post on our website and other social media platforms. This is unfortunate, not because we don’t want to be labeled an “urban” show but because one of our main priorities is to be the most diverse comedy show in New York City. Being marginalized doesn’t help us achieve that. We welcome performers that appeal to all spectrums of humor: mainstream, urban, alternative and dry. We also pride ourselves on the ability to draw an audience of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. This is why comics enjoy performing at “Comedy Outliers” so much. Because it is the true test of their comic material and if their punch-lines hit at our show, they know they’ll hit anywhere.
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Comedy >

3 best event branding tips

Branding

Making your event stand out above the hundreds of events happening on any given night is one of the biggest challenges you may face as an event producer. Securing top-notch talent and a solid promotional plan are key, but sometimes that isn’t enough.

We’ve noticed that our more successful event producers present a solid brand image that is consistent with all the events that they produce. As an event producer, your event’s brand is largely defined by visual representation. Branding can start with something as simple as a consistent color scheme or font, or it can be something more elaborate, like a particular style of artwork or a custom-designed logo. Whatever you choose, your imagery should be unique to you so that once people are familiar with your events, they can instantly recognize them the second they see your poster hanging in a shop window or see your ad in the local paper.

Three pointers for successful branding:

  • Target your audience: Know your audience and what kind of imagery attracts them. If your brand is focused and specifically targeted to your desired demographic, you will draw in the people most likely to buy tickets to your performances. If your branding is well thought-out and researched, attendees will already have an inkling of what’s in store when they pay admission at the door.
  • Find an artist: Lack of artistic ability can be a hurdle. How are you supposed to develop an attractive brand when you can barely draw a stick figure? Obviously, not everyone is an artist, but most people know someone who is. Collaborate with an artist whose work you connect with and develop what it is you’re trying to convey with your brand. An artist can help you develop your brand based on their artistic knowledge. Often times, artists will work for free or cheap in order to strengthen their portfolio. However, if their work is good, never hesitate to spend the money. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Use your brand for future events: Once you have developed your brand, you can use it for future events. This allows you to focus your promotion plan, making it more effective. If the folks dug your last event, they’ll probably be interested in future events and will tell their friends!

Your events are special so don’t sell them short with bland, generic or inconsistent imagery. Even if developing a brand costs you a little money, it will be money well spent.

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